Richard H. Thaler: Biography

Richard H. Thaler

Richard H. Thaler is a pioneer in the relatively new field of behavioral science and economics. His research bridges the gap between economics and psychology. He investigates the implications of relaxing the standard economic assumption that everyone in the economy is rational and selfish, instead entertaining the possibility that some of the agents in the economy are sometimes human.

The author of the bestselling books Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics (2015) and Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness (2008), Thaler is renowned for creating easy-to-understand scenarios that show how human behavior often contradicts traditional economic logic.

In Misbehaving, which Financial Times named one of the six most influential business books of 2015, Thaler chronicles the struggle to bring the academic discipline of economics back down to earth and reveals how behavioral economic analysis can change the way we think about everything from household finances to the NFL draft.

Nudge, coauthored with Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein, explores how the concepts of behavioral economics can be used to tackle many of society’s major problems and influence public policy. Ranked as the Best Book of the Year by The Economist and Financial Times, the research  prompted the United Kingdom’s government in 2010 to establish a Behavioral Insight Team, or “Nudge Unit,” to create policies that nudge British citizens to make better choices and, in turn, save the state money. Thaler served as an advisor in setting up the unit’s guiding principles.

Thaler’s other books include Quasi-Rational Economics and The Winner's Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life, His work has been published in the American Economics Review, the Journal of Finance, and the Journal of Political Economy.

Thaler was named in 2015 to Bloomberg Markets 50 Most Influential People; he also was the American Economic Association’s president for 2015.

At Chicago Booth, he is Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics. Before joining the Chicago Booth faculty in 1995, Thaler taught at the University of Rochester and Cornell University. He also served as a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, the Sloan School of Management at MIT, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Originally from New Jersey, Thaler attended Case Western Reserve University where he received a bachelor's degree in 1967. Soon after, he attended the University of Rochester where he received a master's degree in 1970 and a PhD in 1974.

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